By Clint Thompson
One of the top issues affecting Florida vegetable and specialty crop production is imports. A drastic increase in produce coming from other countries continues to negatively impact the domestic markets.
While morale has been low, especially following the U.S. International Trade Commission blueberry decision in February, some farmers remain upbeat. That includes Aaron Troyer, chairman of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association.
“I’m encouraged by some things that the Florida delegation and the Georgia folks are still working with us. But there’s others around the country like Michigan and New York state that are recognizing that these seasonal, perishable crops that are grown can be affected by, what we would consider to be unfair advantages in other places,” Troyer said.
There are various reasons (or advantages) that explain why imports from Mexico have increased dramatically in recent years. University of Florida Associate Professor Zhengfei Guan believe the depreciation of the peso, wide gaps in labor expenses and Mexican subsidies have contributed to the surge in imports.
“The growers are concerned that we have to continually compete with practices like; in Mexico, where they’re pushing a lot of stuff across the border in my opinion – I won’t speak for everybody – but in my opinion, it’s coming from places that have subsidies and has a drug problem and looking for enforcement from the government’s point of view is who are the importers of record? Where are they coming from? Those are questions I would like answered,” Troyer said.
Producers like Troyer are seeking a stable market system where growers can compete fairly. With the Mexican government subsidizing its farmers, who are only paying a wage per day that is almost equivalent to what American growers are paying per hour, it is an unfair system.
“We need to protect our domestic demand from unfair trade practices. That doesn’t mean that people can’t import product, of course you can import product, but it needs to be in some controlled way that is methodical and enforced,” Troyer said.